Skip to main content

Television Remote Control (Tuner)

Movies Preview

Television Remote Control (Tuner)

Published ca. 1961

Early technology to enable the channel-surfer.

Run time 5:46
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor RCA Victor
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Attractive model in yellow dress caresses the television and demonstrates the push-button wireless wizard remote unit.
She watches television show of stage show of female dancers in costume, varying color intensity, focus, tone, etc. "Lets you enjoy the picture you want, the way you want to see it"
Channel surfing displays cow-herding, sailboats, a ballerina and set fading to off.
Film opens and closes with sequence of a glittery star constructed out of foam-like material, spinning through the fog.



Reviewer: JayKay49 - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 11, 2011
Subject: To randomc
We discovered inadvertantly that a sneeze of the correct frequency could also shut the Zenith TV set on or off or change the channel. Happened one day at the neighbors' when his little brother sneezed and the TV changed channels. We were dumbfounded but qucikly figured it out.
Reviewer: frenchmarky - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 20, 2008
Subject: nice!
I have a set close to this model, it is really cool. As per the mechanics, no it doesn't need 7 motors - it has one motor and it controls the various potentiometers of each control using solenoid-actuated gears (like a transmission) including a reverse gear.
Reviewer: jazzfan - favoritefavorite - March 17, 2008
Subject: Nice Box
The remote looked cool for 1961.
Reviewer: Pongo Twistleton - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 16, 2008
Subject: It's the other functions that is news, here!
I am really surprised to see a 1961 TV remote that could adjust more than channel/volume and on/off! Someone was waaaay ahead on the idea of putting the color/hue/fine tune/brightness controls onto a remote - I would have said that that didn't appear until somewhere in the 80's.
And how was it done in 1961? It would have had to have been 7 seperate little motors cranking on 7 seperate potentiometers (internal "knobs"), wouldn't it? Or what else don't I know?
Reviewer: lwilton - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 13, 2007
Subject: Sigh, youngsters and no more history
Sorry to disapoint everyone, but TV remote controls were invented and in use in the early 1950s. On VERY expensive TV sets, only.

Of course, just like the 4 foot high by 3 foot wide by 3 feet deep hardwood box that held the TV itself, the remote ontrol was in a polished wood box. It was about fourteen inches wide, 10 inches high, and only 8 or 10 inches deep. Had a fifteen foot cable about 3/4 inch thick going back to the mother ship. No chance of losing that in the cushions!

This was back BEFORE there was UHF as described by a previous reviewer. There were ONLY channels 2 to 13, no channel 1, no "UHF" indicator on the tuning knob. There would be maybe as many as 7 channels possible in a large urban market like LA or New York. (Los Angeles had channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13.) So there was actually a reason to switch the knob every so often.

But more to the point, there was a need for "tuning". You see, TVs back then didn't have nice nifty crystal-controlled AFC circuits. (I know nobody will know a technical term like that. Try Automatic Frequency Control. Still doesn't mean anything? Sorry.) What it meant was the TV set would "drift" and go off-station. You had to twist a knob every so often to tune the TV back in, or the picture and even the sound would get all scratchy and maybe even disappear into static. This could happen a lot if the wind was blowing. (Really!) Or if there were airplanes flying overhead. (Yes, really.)

So there were lots of reasons for a remote back then. Of course, nobody could afford one, so Junior got to jump up, run to the set, and tune it back in every few minutes.

Good thing people only watched 4 hours a day of TV back then.
Reviewer: randomc - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 10, 2005
Subject: Analog controls, no less
Well, here it is, now you know when the American public started to get fat and lazy.

What an amazing thing this must have been to someone who'd never seen one before! I was trying to think of something recent that's been just as amazing. I think we're kind of spoiled now, the amazing we take as commonplace.

To answer the questions the kiddies (which is anyone under 35 - anyone else remember when TVs were made of "genuine hardwood"?) have about this "most important invention since color":

This was not the first remote control. The first was by Zenith. Their R&D dept. was given the instruction to come up with a way to turn a television set on and off and change the channel - WITHOUT batteries (no kidding, that's what the marketing department decided the American public needed)! The original remote used two tiny "tuning forks", one for on/off, the other for channel. Each had a single button that you pressed down. A striker hit the little noisemaker, which produced an ultrasonic pitch, too high to be heard by people (I wonder about dogs?). The channel button caused the channel to go up one notch each time the button was pressed - and eventually you got back to where you started. I know you kids will have a hard time beliveing this, but there were only 12 possible channels, 2 - 13 "VHF" - Very High Frequqency- channels (of which only three or four would be used in a good-sized city), plus one slot for "UHF" Ultra High Frequency (there were usually only 2 or 3 stations that used that set of frequencies in those days). And before you ask, "channel 1" encompased the UHF "channels". If you wanted to see a UHF channel, you set the main selector to "UHF" and then had to get off your butt and go to the TV and twiddle the separate UHF tuning knob, it was tricky to get tuned in. I won't go into why there are two separate channel sections, look it up yourself. There was no volume control. And no batteries!

The remote control in this case is big because of the batteries: probably a couple of D cells, maybe 4 C cells. It worked by infrared light (apparently the first to do so), the same as today's. What was different is that it was analog - each function had a separate "frequency", and you held down the button as long as necessary to get the effect you were trying for, whereas today's all use the same frequency (you can even user your Palm or PocketPC PDA as a remote control!), but each button produces a different series of pulses on that frequency - off=0, on=1 - digital, get it?

Now, go to the library and read chapter 7-9, there will be a test tomorrow.
Reviewer: Crackerboxer - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 9, 2005
Subject: The amazing self-referencing remote control
Hey, I just noticed that the show the woman is watching is the Chevrolet Sales Convention Musical, one of my favorites, and also by Jam Handy! Good use of stock footage, guys.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 6, 2005
Subject: Click, Click BOOM!
Although I doubt if this is the first ever remote control, this is a fun introduction to a remote circa 1961, whoch was probably doomed to fail because I can imagine the reception was nothing short of poor. I wonder how heavy it was.. And who in the right mind would put the remote back in the 'handy remote holder' in the tv? Nope, sorry, like mine, this was doomed to forever dissapear into the couches
Reviewer: Visaman - favoritefavoritefavorite - March 25, 2005
Subject: Who was the narrator?
Are you sure it wasn't Bobby Kennedy? Seriously, what was the point of having a remote control, when at most you had 2 or three channels? I guess technology has to start somewhere?
Reviewer: Karma Hawk - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 25, 2005
Subject: a good look back at history,
pretty straight forward promotional film promoting Rca's new picture television and remote control combo. That in itself doesn't deserve a four star rating but since the remote control functions of the day were so diferent than todays are (the one here features no numbers just various functions such as "tuning" and channel surfing) I think it deserves the rating.
Reviewer: huskobon - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 7, 2004
Subject: I found the remote!
From the looks of it too, it's been under the couch way too long!
Reviewer: Archiveman - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 3, 2003
Subject: Good show.
I love watching old archival videos and this is a good one. We take this feature for granted, Im almost 17 and i am glad the remote was invented. If the remote was not invented i dont know what i would do. That remote looks a little wide then the ones now, why were they wide?

We dont have to do that fine tuning any more because the remote works with are cable box if you have cable.
SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata)
Date Archived
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 16,582
favorite 19
comment 3
favoritefavorite ( 3 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 18,707
favorite 18
comment 5
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 5 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 21,654
favorite 21
comment 6
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 6 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 6,063
favorite 20
comment 2
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 2 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 1,007
favorite 5
comment 0
Prelinger Archives
eye 25,056
favorite 27
comment 7
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 7 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Radio Corporation of America (RCA)
eye 19,452
favorite 16
comment 2
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 2 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Ganz (William J.) Co.
eye 18,397
favorite 26
comment 5
favoritefavoritefavorite ( 5 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 2,381
favorite 5
comment 4
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 4 reviews )
Prelinger Archives
by Handy (Jam) Organization
eye 1,040
favorite 1
comment 3
favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite ( 3 reviews )